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Dr. Brent Janes, center, wins Deming Cup prize

Dr. Brent James, center, wins Deming Cup prize

Columbia Business School awards Intermountain’s Dr. Brent James its annual Deming Cup prize

Jason Burgess

 (801) 442-2836


Columbia Business School’s W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity and Competitiveness announced the winners of the second annual Deming Cup. Intermountain Healthcare’s Brent James, MD, was honored at a dinner at Columbia University on Nov. 2. The award is given annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions in the area of operations and has established a culture of continuous improvement within his or her respective organization.

This year the Deming Center awarded the Cup to two recipients: Dr. James, chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare, and Sergio Marchionne, chairman and chief executive officer, Chrysler Group LLC and Chief Executive Officer, Fiat S.p.A.

Dr. James was recognized for his pioneering work in applying quality improvement techniques that were originally developed by W. Edwards Deming and others, in order to help create and implement a “system” model at Intermountain, in which physicians study process and outcomes data to determine the types of care that are most effective. Mr. Marchionne was honored for proving how by executing operations principles – including focusing efforts to reduce waste, improve processes, and meet customer needs – a leader can build a stronger and more competitive business.

“The Deming Center focuses on developing new insights in all areas of operational excellence,” said Nelson M. Fraiman, director of the W. Edwards Deming Center and professor of Professional Practice, Decision, Risk, and Operations at Columbia Business School. “The award gives us an opportunity to recognize best practices in the area of operations and informs academics and executives about individual accomplishments in the field. This year’s recipients depict how expertise in operations can cultivate excellence in firms in a wide range of sectors.”

Dr. James’ vision and teaching has been instrumental in the collaboration between GE Healthcare and Intermountain, launched in 2005. The joint project team is creating the next generation health information system.

“Dr. James has consistently demonstrated that we can improve the quality of healthcare while lowering the cost by practicing the principles of W. Edwards Deming,” said Keith S. Sherin, CFO and Vice Chairman of General Electric, who introduced Dr. James at the Nov. 2 event. “Brent James is a visionary and he is passionate about teaching physicians to improve outcomes by reducing variation. Because of his work and because of Intermountain Health’s dedication to quality, Intermountain is recognized as one of the most effective healthcare systems in the world.”

Raised on a ranch in Idaho, educated in Utah, trained and established as a surgeon in Boston, Dr. James returned to Utah from Harvard and joined Intermountain Healthcare in 1986. He leads Intermountain’s Institute for Healthcare Leadership, which offers Advanced Training Program courses for healthcare executives. Dr. James has instructed more than 5,500 healthcare leaders from across the U.S. and throughout the world in his courses here in Salt Lake City. In fact, an additional 7,500 people have been trained when counting those attending one of Dr. James’ 46 sister training programs in the U.S. at places such as MD Anderson and Sutter Health, and at international locations from Sweden to Singapore. He is a sought-after speaker and has often given testimony before Congressional committees.

The Deming Cup’s judging committee was led by co-chairs Robert M. Amen, executive in residence at Columbia Business School, and Paul H. O’Neill, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. The committee received nominations through a variety of channels — such as an ad in The New York Times, solicitations sent to the CEOs of the top 300 companies in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia, business and engineering school faculty around the world and Columbia Business School’s alumni and Board of Overseers committee. A working group of the Judging Committee then screened the nominations to narrow the field to four finalists. Afterwards, the entire Judging Committee voted for a winner and runner-up, in order to determine who should receive the prize. Dr. James and Mr. Marchionne led the voting, receiving the same number of votes.

About the W. Edwards Deming Center

The W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness was founded in 1990 during W. Edwards Deming’s last year at Columbia. The center promotes operational excellence in business through the development of research, best practices, and strategic planning. The Deming Center sponsors applied research; disseminates best practices; supports focused education and professional development; reaches senior executives through forums, executive education, and publications; and fosters partnerships with companies in the area of operational excellence. ​

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